Messiah: Origin. Matt Dorff (Adapter). Kai Carpenter (Illustrator). Mark Avey (Translator). Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderva. 2013. 176 pp. $19.99.
Just in time for the Christmas season comes Messiah: Origin from Zondervan. Merging scripture with a comic book-style format, the birth and early life of Christ makes this the first book in what promises to be a serial graphic adaptation of a Gospel harmony, though I am unaware of how many more volumes the authors intend to produce. The book features a fresh translation of the Bible text set in a backdrop of artful illustrations. Unlike other Bible-turned-comic-book products, Messiah: Origin does not deviate from the text of the Bible or abridge the text. In that aspect it is more like the Gospel of John film, whereas its illustrations are more worthy of a comparison with Mel Gibson's high quality production The Passion of the Christ. Because of duplication between the Gospel narratives, it is not a full harmony of the Gospels, but it does combine them into one unified story.
The book's arrangement of the biblical material is excellent. It's begins with the prologue from the Gospel of John and then moves into the birth announcements and infancy narratives of John the Baptist and Jesus. Of special note is the placement of the Magi's visit after the temple dedication. While it is popular to portray the shepherds in the Magi visiting Jesus on the night he was born, a closer look at the narratives would suggest that the Magi came at some point after Jesus was dedicated in the temple, which was 40 days after he was born. The fact that the authors got this right makes the book a welcome addition to this season of Advent.
The illustrations are top notch and generally flow out of the passage instead of distracting from it. The depiction of Angels is interesting, but without any authoritative drawings, that aspect is open to artistic license. My one real criticism stems from the translation, not the art. At one point a term usually translated as baby is rendered "fetus." (Later he is referred to a baby.) Although the term "fetus" may be scientifically accurate, it is a bit of a loaded term in American society, and I would rather we use the term "baby" when referring to the unborn instead of "fetus."
I plan on sharing this book with visitors to my home this Christmas season as a discussion starter about not only the events of Jesus birth, but their significance as well. Although there are more volumes to come, this one can function nicely as a standalone book.
I received this book from the publisher for the purposes of review. The opinions expressed on my own.